IU Recognizes Dedicated Board of Directors
January is School Director Recognition Month and the Colonial Intermediate Unit 20 leadership team is grateful for the dedicated Board of Directors that supports its endeavors in serving children in Northampton, Monroe, and Pike Counties. The CIU 20 board serves 86,000 students and they make sound decisions when it comes to programs, services, budgets, and other needs that affect students and staff in all 13 school districts.

Comprised of 13 members, the CIU 20 Board has the same responsibilities and powers as local school boards. Board members are nominated by their district, but are elected by all 117 school board members of the 13 districts. Colonial IU 20 looks forward to continuing to work with its Board of Directors to provide high quality services and programs for children and families.
Collaboration with Pleasant Valley SD Helps Classroom Communication
Colonial Intermediate Unit 20 Hearing Support Teacher, Gina Charowsky, has partnered with Pleasant Valley Elementary Life Skills Support Teacher, Kristen Gschwend, to help students and staff in her classroom communicate more effectively by utilizing sign language. The idea came from Ms. Charowsky, who was working with a student who didn't verbally communicate, had fluctuating hearing loss, and was entering Ms. Gschwend's room at the beginning of the school year. Ms. Charowsky approached Ms. Gschwend about the possibility of teaching the other students in her class a few signs. The idea was approved by administration from CIU 20 and Pleasant Valley and has positively impacted communication for everyone involved.
Ms. Charowsky is pleasantly surprised by how the introduction of sign language has helped the students flourish, "In my mind it was going to be just a few signs and the kids just really took off and they loved to learn the signs and wanted to learn more. In addition to the alphabet and songs, they probably know well over one hundred signs. On top of that, my student is now voicing many words."
Ms. Gschwend concurs that sign language in her classroom has helped the students and staff, "The growth they've made has been amazing...signing the words helps with de-escalation sometimes because it's less intimidating and demanding than raising your voice or saying the same thing out loud numerous times. It's less disruptive when students ask to do simple tasks like using the restroom. For students who are struggling with reading, using the associated signs with words has helped engage different ways of thinking to remember the words."
The benefits of the students learning sign language goes beyond the walls of the traditional classroom, Ms. Gschwend notes that "I've had many emails from parents thanking me that the sign language has helped with communication at home as well. This has given my students a sense of pride and it's something they have taught their families, other students, and staff throughout the school."
Ms. Charowsky sees the value in sign language for all students, "I think that sign language is such an amazing language, not only for deaf and hard-of-hearing kids, but for kids that have communication delays or need an alternative way to communicate."
Grant Funds STEM Professional Development for Local Educators
Colonial Intermediate Unit 20, in collaboration with Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit 21, and the Da Vinci Science Center is offering a series of STEM professional development opportunities for local educators. This initiative is funded by a PAsmart Advancing Grant from the PA Department of Education.
"Launch into STEM Learning Environments" provides a continuum of opportunities for teachers to strengthen instructional practices that will support students’ critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication in the classroom. Each of the pathways is distinct in offering different entry points for teachers, allowing for individual growth in a format that is suitable to the individual and their classroom needs. First year cohorts kicked off in late 2022 and include: Exploring STEM Learning Environments, Inquiry Practices for STEM Learning, and Project-Based Learning for STEM Environments.
Students Display Computer Programming Skills at Regional Competition
High School computer programming teams from Delaware Valley, Nazareth, and Northampton joined IU 21 region schools at the annual “Code Jam” on December 20th at DeSales University. The event is organized by Colonial IU 20 in partnership with DeSales University and Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit 21.
Students were given two hours to successfully solve computer problems that could be translated into real-world applications. Using computer programming skills, they decoded problems ranging from routine savings calculations to more difficult spatial calculations, and even complex cryptography. Teams were awarded points based on successful completion of problems within specified timeframes.
Winners were: 1st place: Emmaus High School, East Penn School District; 2nd place: Southern Lehigh High School; 3rd place: Nazareth High School.
CIU 20 Accepting Nominations for Excellence in Education Awards
Colonial Intermediate Unit 20 is accepting nominations for the 2023 Excellence in Education (EIE) Awards until March 1, 2023. This annual recognition for outstanding education programs throughout the public schools across the region is presented by CIU 20 and its member districts. Nominations may be submitted by any resident, school student, school employee, or school entity on behalf of the public schools in Monroe, Northampton, or Pike County. Learn more at this link.

The 2023 CIU 20 Excellence in Education Awards Ceremony will be celebrated this year on May 11th, with more details being released in the near future. The ceremony will also feature students who achieved the distinction of National Merit Scholars. A student achieves this honor by scoring in the top 3.3% on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®).
Staff Spotlight: Dan Rowley
Autistic Support Teacher
Dan Rowley has been a teacher in the CIU 20 Autistic Support program in Bethlehem Area School District for a total of 16 years, serving in classrooms at East Hills Middle School for the first five years, and at Liberty High School for the last eleven. He says the most rewarding part of his job is "Building relationships with students and families to help the student grow and develop." Dan understands it takes a team approach to help the students grow, "the staff in my classroom and building are excellent. Without them, there would be very little student success."
Mr. Rowley is extending those relationships further by partnering with CIU 20 Partial Hospitalization program teachers to expose his students to new vocational opportunities. When asked what advice he would give a new employee starting out within the IU, he says "Do not take a student's behavior personally...treat your secretaries and janitors with the utmost respect."
Mr. Josef Franzo, Supervisor of Special Education, Autistic Support Secondary, is very appreciative of Mr. Rowley's contribution to CIU 20, "Dan is one of the most positive teachers I have ever worked with. No matter what the situation is, he is always focused on the student, first and foremost. The relationships he builds with families last well beyond graduation, because he sincerely cares for each and every student he works with. Dan maintains his amazing passion for helping students, even after teaching for so many years, he is truly remarkable!"
The mission of the Colonial IU 20 Equity, Inclusion & Belonging (EIB) committee is to provide positive, safe, equitable and inclusive learning environments. The EIB committee seeks to utilize and advocate for a culturally-responsive approach in which diverse strengths and identities are valued, thereby creating a community of belonging. Below is what is being celebrated this month.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Students in CIU 20's Therapeutic Emotional Support program at Easton Area High School wrote their own "I Have a Dream" speeches with inspirational messages.

Thanks to Ms. Sciortino, Ms. Freeman, and Ms. Giacoumopoulos for spearheading this activity and creating the bulletin board to display the student speeches to their peers.
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At Colonial IU 20, we believe in RELATIONSHIPS that support student growth, RESPONSIVENESS to stakeholders crucial needs, RESULTS demonstrated through effective services and programs, and INNOVATION to improve student outcomes.
Colonial IU 20 provides educational, administrative, and management services to 13 school districts and 3 career and technical centers in Northampton, Monroe, and Pike Counties. As one of the community’s largest employers and contributors, the 1,400 full and part-time staff at CIU 20 provides direct and indirect services to 79,000 public school children; 9,000 non-public school children; and 7,000 professional staff in our service region of 1,200 square miles.